Here's a great website where you can watch ads from old presidential campaigns. (Via the NYT.) The ads are nicely organized by theme, and it is both funny and sad to see how the same themes have been used and re-used. For example, under the theme of "fear," the Republicans have repeatedly tried to scare us with the idea that the Democratic candidate would cut back on defense, and the Democrats have tried to scare us with the idea that the Republican candidate is a war-monger. Under the "commander-in-chief" theme, the Democrats keep finding a way to say the Republican candidate is too dumb to understand the complex issues, and the Republicans keep finding a way to say the Democratic candidate is too weak to do what is needed. Watching a lot of these old ads is a good way to immunize yourself against the manipulation of today's ads. It would be especially good for high school kids, who can't remember too many old campaigns, to study these things and to analyze the various themes and devices. But even for those of us who were subjected to these ridiculous short films the first time, it is enlightening to see them when one is not gripped by hopes and fears about the outcome of the election and the Presidency that would follow.
ADDED: Don't miss the bear ad. As John put it: "It seems like something from 'The Simpsons.'" (You have to click on the bear, over on the right side.)